Despite Collingwood and Brisbane playing in the AFL grand final in 2023, it's Carlton who have the most prime-time games in 2024. The AFL released the official draw for 2024 this week, and it's Carlton who have emerged as the big winners.
After a stunning surge to the finals this year in which they lost to the Lions in the prelim, the Blues have been rewarded with the most Thursday and Friday night games of any club in 2024. Carlton will be involved in eight prime-time games next year - one more than Collingwood and Brisbane with seven each.
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The Adelaide Crows, who were robbed of a finals berth by a controversial umpiring decision against the Sydney Swans late in the season, have been given six matches in front of a Thursday or Friday night national TV audience. One Thursday night game will be the round-eight 'Showdown' between cross-town rivals Adelaide and Port Adelaide, which will screen on free-to-air TV nationwide for the first time in more than a decade.
"Thursday night footy is featured across 14 rounds which has allowed for blockbuster matches to be scheduled, and we know fans love these big clashes that build the anticipation for the rest of the weekend's games," the AFL's broadcast and scheduling boss Josh Bowler said in a statement. Timeslots have been confirmed up to round 15 of the new season, with the remainder of the dates and times for games to be locked in later in the year.
Before the fixture was released, the AFL issued a press release revealing that Friday night matches would move from 7.50pm to 7.40pm, hailing the move a "win for fans". The Lions will get two chances at revenge on Collingwood after their four-point loss in the grand final, hosting the Magpies at the Gabba in round three before a return bout against the reigning premiers at the MCG in round 23.
AFL world divided over 'Opening Round' in NSW and QLD
Meanwhile, fans are still divided over the AFL's decision to play a marquee weekend of four games in Queensland and NSW to begin the season. Carlton and Richmond have traditionally opened the new season on a Thursday night, but the Blues and Tigers will face the Lions and Suns respectively in 'Opening Round' in 2024.
Those fixtures fall in the same week as the NRL's opening round, which features two games in Las Vegas before the remainder of the round continues. The AFL's 'Opening Round' is being touted as a unique opportunity for AFL fans in Queensland and NSW due to a reduction of NRL games in those states that weekend.
"It's a unique opportunity where we had access to venues where wouldn't ordinarily have access to them," Bowler said. "I think for now let's see how it (Opening Round) goes. We think it's going to be big and we'll reassess heading into the following year."
All clubs will have a bye between rounds 12 and 15, while the Anzac round will span five days - starting with Richmond and Melbourne at the MCG on Wednesday night. After the traditional Anzac Day blockbuster between Collingwood and Essendon on Thursday, the Lions and Giants will face off at Manuka Oval in Canberra later that night.
For reference I would love to eventually see a game in the US like the NRL.
There are now proper cricket stadiums located in the country that can host them and I don’t think many teams would be opposed to a US trip. pic.twitter.com/GcmvUmH8Z5
— Mason Cox AFL (@masonsixtencox) November 15, 2023
Opening round should start with a bang.
This gets the season off on a hugely underwhelming start.
— Tatts 🇦🇺 (@tatts37) November 15, 2023
carlton and collingwood fans never agree on anything but i think we can all agree that having the two biggest clubs in the land play their first games of the season interstate is utter stupidity.
— JASMINA (@simplyjasmina) November 15, 2023
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